Description: Challenge to approvals related to development of coal lease in Colorado.
WildEarth Guardians v. Bureau of Land Management
Filing Date Type File Action Taken Summary 06/20/2014 Order Download Plaintiff's motion for voluntary dismissal of the appeal granted. The D.C. Circuit granted the plaintiffs’-appellants’ motion for voluntary dismissal of the
06/17/2014 Motion Download Motion for voluntary dismissal of appeal filed. 03/31/2014 Opinion Download Court denied plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment; granted defendants' motion for summary judgment; granted defendant-intervenors' motion. The federal district court for the District of Columbia granted the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) motion for summary judgment in this challenge to BLM’s decision to authorize competitive lease sales in two coal tracts in the Wyoming Powder River Basin. As a threshold matter, the court concluded that plaintiffs had standing to bring all of their claims, including those related to climate change. After concluding that plaintiffs had standing stemming from injuries to aesthetic and recreational interests from local pollution to challenge BLM’s consideration of local pollution impacts, the court expressed relief that it “need not navigate the troubled waters of the ‘derivative’ standing issue, nor … decide whether plaintiffs have established a separate injury in fact caused by climate change” because the D.C. Circuit had made clear in a similar case—WildEarth Guardians v. Jewell, No. 12-5300—that plaintiffs had standing to challenge BLM’s consideration of climate change impacts on a procedural injury theory. On the merits, however, the court rejected plaintiffs’ claims under both the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Federal Land Policy Management Act. Under NEPA, the court was not persuaded that BLM had not sufficiently considered the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions from mining operations and from the subsequent combustion of the coal. The court concluded that “the level of specificity plaintiffs would prefer in BLM’s analysis is neither possible based on current science, nor required by law.” The court said that BLM’s evaluation of greenhouse gas emissions associated with its actions as a percentage of statewide and nationwide emissions was “a permissible and adequate approach,” given that current climate science did not allow for “specific linkage between particular [greenhouse gas] emissions and particular climate change impacts.” The court also rejected plaintiffs’ contention that BLM was obligated to consider alternatives that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as emissions capture and sequestration, more efficient mine hauling trucks, and carbon offsets.